Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Books with Wings

This column came to me the other day as I was driving to the library - not to take out books but to deliver them. The print versus e-pub debate has been on my mind for some time now and it's only in the last few weeks that I finally have come to terms with why I feel the way I do. There are positive and negatives on both sides, but in the end I think print books have more potential.  They are like seeds that blow in the wind, take root in new ground, blossom, go to seed and then move on again.  E-publications are a done deal. They just don't have the same ability to migrate. Where they land, they stay.


On the plus side, electronic books and magazines have been a godsend to many just starting out. They allow anyone to self-publish with minimal investment.  While earning money with these publications is not always easy, it offers a new freedom to be heard.  I will always be grateful for the opportunity to publish an e-mag promoting local fashion artists. Travelling with an ePub Reader is also a joy.  I can take 10 books along in my purse without adding much in terms of bulk. It's also easier to curl up with in bed if you like to read yourself to sleep. If you carry an iPad - you can have full-colour electronic magazines galore on hand anytime you feel the urge to leaf through a few pages.  There is no doubt in my mind that both will continue to claim an ever-increasing portion of the market.

Now for the other side of the coin. I love the tactile sensation of reading a print book - the smell, the texture of the paper and the weight in my hands. There is a feeling of substance. But more that, I love the fact they have wings. The one thing you cannot do with e-publications without violating copyright laws is share them. Glen and I are avid readers and used to share books we thought the other would like. We also would set aside special books to lend to friends who might be interested. Now that he reads almost 100% electronically, he can only talk about titles that were interesting and encourage others to seek them out. To share them means having to lend his device for a period of time and that's just not a great option. As most of my books are still hard copy - I can freely pass them around.

Print books have more potential to be a part your charity giving.  When my kids were in elementary school, I ran a book exchange day. We had families donate children and tween books they no longer wanted.  Most sent a box of titles so there would be a good selection. We used them to set up a small library.  The students that brought books to donate were allowed to go in and select a new book to take home. Others were sold for a REALLY small cost.  It was a hands down success.  All leftover books were given to the teachers for their classroom libraries. For those who do not know, teachers usually have to provide this resource themselves.  In this time of cutbacks, having access to free materials was a huge boon.

Hard copies can also be used to support your local library.  I buy books constantly when I see them on sale - at Costco, on the discount table at the bookstore and online.  Having a stack of books around the house is a joy as I might not read for a week or 2 and then suddenly consume 3 or 4 over the span of just a few days.  When I have finished a pile, it's time for a trip to my local library where they take donations year round.  The majority are sold at the annual Friends of the Library book sale to help raise much needed funds, but there are always a couple shelves being sold on a daily basis for a minimal charge and some of the best are put into regular circulation.  Any organization that takes donations to be sold in a thrift store would be a good place to give books to when you are done with them.  There are also many book charities of all genres.  A great international list can be found at Playing by the Book.

3 popular readers - KoboSony and Nook

The debate will continue on for a long time with hard copies surely going the way of LP's eventually. For now, though, I will indulge my passion for print and continue to use them when finished as a part of my charity giving.

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